Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis spoke over the phone late Aug. 27, a Defense Ministry source told state-run Anadolu Agency.
Akar and Mattis exchanged views on Turkey-U.S. defense relations, Syria, and the fight against terrorism, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on talking to the media.
Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests – which erupted as part of the Arab Spring uprisings – with unexpected ferocity.
The phone conversation between the defense chiefs took place on the day the members of a delegation from the U.S. Congress visited Turkey and met with their Turkish Parliament counterparts.
A three-member delegation headed by Congressman Michael Turner first visited the İncirlik Airbase in the southern Adana province. The delegation later met with Turkish parliamentarians and discussed the issues of Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 systems and the delivery of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey.
The congressmen urged Ankara to abandon the procurement of S-400 systems to guarantee the delivery of the F-35s, while the Turkish side stressed further cooperation against the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).
The U.S. Congress recently passed legislation threatening to halt U.S. sales of the F-35 fighter jets to Turkey, despite signed contracts between the countries over the latter’s planned acquisition of Russia’s S-400 missile defense system, and the ramifications for the U.S. industrial base if Turkey is dropped from the international F-35 program.
The row over the F-35s came at a time when ties between the two countries are strained over the detention in Turkey of U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson.